Archive for the ‘Taxes’ Category

Echoes from California

April 24th, 2008 3 comments

Corzine & Schwarzenegger both slashing parks and blowing hot air on global warming – California does it bigger
Are the two “Governators” reading from the same playbook“Politics for idiots” ?

Corzine & Schwarzenegger face off at Yale to sign “Governors Declaration on Climate Change”.

Headlines in California eerily echo NJ’s. Here’s news from California:
Governor Schwarzenegger Has Really Rattled the Cages with Proposed Cuts to California’s State Parks
The Save Our State Parks (SOS) Campaign held a rally on the West Steps of the Capitol yesterday in protest of the proposed cuts to state parks. More than 300 park advocates including legislators, mayors, surfers, hikers, campers, RV enthusiasts, and other parks users chanted slogans and held signs decrying the proposed closure of 48 state parks and the reduction of life guard staffing at 16 state beaches.
Same story in New Jersey:
Statehouse rally protests park closings
By Tom Baldwin • GANNETT STATE BUREAU • April 24, 2008
TRENTON — A rollicking array of hikers, horse people, historical re-enactors, Boy Scouts, birders, unionists — just about anyone who enjoys state parks and historic sites– rallied on the sun-splashed steps of the Statehouse Wednesday to urge Gov. Jon S. Corzine not to shut those venues as a way to economize in the budget crunch.

Corzine drew hisses from the Yale partisans when he brought greetings from the Princeton Tigers
Schwarzenegger was well received and got laughs for remarks that ridiculed environmentalists

Taxpayer money gone uncollected by DEP

April 22nd, 2008 No comments

While the Corzine Administration proposes to close state parks to save $4.5 million, DEP has failed to collect millions of dollars in money damages from some of the largest corporate polluters in the state. The below court decision was issued on August 24, 2007 – 8 months later, DEP still has done nothing to adopt the regulations required to collect millions of dollars in pollution damages.
NEW JERSEY FORFEITS HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS IN POLLUTION DAMAGES — Court Ruling Faults DEP for Failure to Enact Rules to Compensate Public
In a stunning legal setback, the State of New Jersey cannot recover damages from polluters in what may be thousands of contaminated groundwater cases, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The problem stems from the state’s failure to adopt regulations governing how to calculate “natural resources damages” (NRD) for polluted drinking water. As a result, polluters can avoid compensating the public for treatment of tainted groundwater, replacement water supply lines, drilling new wells and associated damages — leaving taxpayers with uncalculated costs.
On August 24, 2007, a state Superior Court dismissed with prejudice an attempt by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to recover a natural resource damage claim involving benzene and toluene contamination of private wells in the Hillwood Lakes area of Ewing Township. (N.J. Dept. of Envtl. Prot. v. Exxon Mobil Corp., Docket No. MER-L-2933-02 (N.J. Super. Ct. Law Div. Aug. 24, 2007)). The Court found that DEP did not follow the rule making process to establish, by regulation, a reliable formula for calculating natural resources damages. In the absence of regulations, the Court also found DEP lacked adequate scientific support to proceed on a case-by-case basis.
This ruling affects as many as 4,600 contaminated sites prioritized by DEP. The problem may be fatal due to an inexplicable related lapse by the Corzine Administration in allowing the statute of limitations on these cases to expire on June 30, 2007, after it had been twice extended under previous administrations.
“This regulatory train wreck was completely preventable,” stated New Jersey PEER Director Bill Wolfe, a former DEP analyst, pointing to repeated acknowledgements by state officials of the need to act:
* In 2002 “Vulnerability Assessments,” DEP estimated that as many as 4,600 cases may require NRD litigation which would necessitate both rule making and extending the statute of limitations. This data prompted former DEP Commissioner Bradley Campbell to say he was “astounded to find on taking office in [2002] that the [DEP] had not pursued, or left unsettled, thousands of cases against polluters responsible for a wide range of damages to New Jersey’s natural resources,” pledging to put the program “back on track”;
* In a 2004 settlement agreement of the case New Jersey Society of Environmental & Economic Development v. Campbell (N.J. Super. Law Div., Mercer County) DEP legally committed to propose formal natural resource damage regulations; and
* At a May 24, 2005 seminar at Rutgers’ Cook College, John Sacco, Chief of DEP’s Office of Natural Resource Restoration pledged that natural resource damage regulations will “hopefully” be proposed in fall 2005. But since then, there has been no apparent activity to move rules forward.
In a June 2007 press release, DEP touted the filing of 120 NRD lawsuits that “could result in hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation from polluters who have harmed New Jersey’s natural resources, including numerous manufacturers and marketers of the gasoline additive MTBE.” Not only are all these NRD suits now in jeopardy, but so are all future such litigation and ongoing NRD settlement negotiations in an unknown number of groundwater pollution cases.
The corporations who had the most at stake stalled the NRD program during the Whitman administration but failed to kill it outright. Now, through inaction, the Corzine administration has provided polluters precisely the relief they sought,” Wolfe added. “Those officials responsible for these policies and blocking these regulations should be identified and drummed out of public service.”
See a summary of the N.J. Dept. of Envtl. Prot. v. Exxon Mobil Corp ruling
Look at the DEP press release touting ill-fated recovery litigation
Read a 2006 law review (FDCC Quarterly) article on “New Jersey’s Natural Resource Damage Initiative”
New Jersey PEER is a state chapter of a national alliance of state and federal agency resource professionals working to ensure environmental ethics and government accountability.

Parks lose millions in uncollected payments

April 22nd, 2008 5 comments

Park Closures Could Be Averted by Reaping Concessionaire and Easement Revenue

Questionable deals to reduce or waive rental payments from private leases and concessions throughout New Jersey’s State Parks is costing taxpayers a bundle, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The state has ignored repeated warnings that it is forfeiting millions of dollars each year by failing to collect what is owed by easement-holders and concessionaires, including some of the state’s largest corporations.
Governor Jon Corzine has proposed to close several parks serving an estimated two million visitors each year and lay off 80 park workers in order to save the state roughly $4.5 million. Yet, the Governor’s people failed to consider the unutilized revenue potential of the system they are trying to collapse.
“Collecting rents is basic management 101, but that is a course our top folks evidently failed,” stated New Jersey PEER Director Bill Wolfe, a former state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) analyst, noting that utilities, oil companies and other big corporate players are not paying current market rates for use of state lands, facilities and right-of-ways. “Our parks can no longer afford corporate welfare.”
Internal documents from DEP, the parent agency for the Division of Parks and Forestry, indicate that uncollected and subsidized rents are common throughout the system. Problems include lack of lease agreements, failure to collect owed rents, rent-free arrangements, and outdated decades-old leases:
* Millions of dollars in lease revenue goes uncollected from major corporations granted use easements for transmission lines, pipelines and sewage lines across State Park lands;
* In Six Mile Run and Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park, for example, none of the agricultural tenants are paying any rent nor do they even have current leases; and
* The parks Office of Leases and Concessions routinely signs off on “rent abatements” and other give-aways described by one former superintendent as “a scam”.
Over the past few years, Parks Supervisors repeatedly identified similar problems, but DEP management took no action. DEP also ignored a series of Office of Legislative Services Audit reports issued in 1997, 1999 and 2003 documenting a lack of internal financial controls needed to track lease payments owed.
“With parks facing shutdowns and visitors hit with higher entry and parking fees, it is past time to put our fiscal house in order,” added Wolfe. “Our parks are supposed to be free for the enjoyment of the public, not the concessionaires.”
Look at 2003 OLS Audit finding that DEP had not addressed prior reports of lost lease revenue (see:
See the lease arrangements at one state park (see:
Read e-mail describing Office of Leases and Concessions problems (see:
New Jersey PEER is a state chapter of a national alliance of state and federal agency resource professionals working to ensure environmental ethics and government accountability.

Categories: Hot topics, Policy watch, Politics, Taxes Tags:

Yale Does Schwarzenegger

April 22nd, 2008 No comments

Yalies embrace “Governator” over Nobel Laureate

*** Apologies – NJ.Com took down the photos, which were originally published on my “NJ Voices” column at NJ.Com. I was able to save the text, but not the photos. What assholes.
Yale’s Woolsey Hall is packed to the rafters.

The Yale University community turned out for “The Governors Declaration on Climate Change” on Friday. The well promoted event was timed to celebrate the 100th anniversary of President Teddy Roosevelt’s landmark “Conference of Governors” in Washington DC.

Pinchot is buried in Milford, Pennsylvania, along the Delaware River

That 1908 event helped launch the conservation movement (precursor to today’s environmental movement). Roosevelt’s close advisor, first Chief of the US Forest Service and conservationist Gifford Pinchot, worked to establish the National Parks System and inspire State programs to protect land. In an historic debate that still rages, Pinchot’s “conservationist” views clashed with the “preservationist” orientation advocated by John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club.

Nobel Laureate Dr. R.K. Pachauri, Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), welcomes the warm reception.

The event focused on the leadership of 18 Governor’s who signed the “federal partnership” declaration on global warming, but California Governor Schwarzenegger clearly won the hearts and minds of the Yale crowd. In remarks in which he took personal credit for forming the fitness “movement”, Schwarzennegger took the opportunity to ridicule environmentalists.

Schwartzenegger speaks at Yale.

Schwarzenegger characterized environmentalists as effete (gay? feminine?) elite proponents of a failed movement based upon shame, guilt, pessimism, government solutions, and limits to growth (you think the Ahnold can say “Malthusian”?).
Analogizing to what he described as the takeoff in today’s hugely popular personal fitness “movement” (a “movement” he took credit for having started with “Pumping Iron”, back in the day when weightlifters were considered nerds), Schwarzenegger advocated his new muscular macho brand of the “environmental movement”.

Schwarzenegger and Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell sign Governor’s Declaration at Yale.

This new “movement” he is leading is optimistic, exciting, cool, sexy, and most importantly, macho. It relies on capitalist market investment and trusts technological solutions, and is NOT antiquated government command and control driven.
The contrast with the humble Nobel Laureate scientist, Dr. Pachauri could not have been more stark.
But the Yale community absolutely ate Schwarzenegger up – his remarks were punctuated with applause and laughter. The crowd gave him a spontaneous standing ovation, which was far in excess of the response to Nobel Laureate and IPCC Chair Dr. Pachauri.
Frankly, I was embarrased for Yale – an elite University supposedly dedicated to the life of the mind and pursuit of Truth, not the promotion of political propaganda.
In my view, Schwarzenegger is a bully who blends certain retrograde cultural myths and machismo with uninformed market fundamentalist rhetoric. His public policy views may be informed by good speech writers, but he clearly is overly optimistic – bordering on utopian – in his advocacy of capitalism, private markets, and technology to provide a magic bullet to solve our environmental problems.
This is a very dangerous combination of attributes in a politician. But I’m sure the California folks who elected him are beginning to understand this “Hybrid Hummer environmentalism”.

In a wonderful historic gesture, grandsons of Gifford Pinchot and Teddy Roosevelt are special guests at Yale (from left).

Obama Rocks Harrisburg – photos

April 21st, 2008 2 comments

*** Apologies – NJ.Com took down the photos, which were originally published on my “NJ Voices” column at NJ.Com. I was able to save the text, but not the photos. What assholes.

I had a press pass for the Obama rally in Harrisburg on Saturday night and was able to take these excellent photographs – click on this link to view the pictures:
This is my favorite:
The 12+ MB original RAW files have been reduced for posting. Originals are far higher quality and suitable for copying, up to poster size. Shoot me an email if you are interested in making copies: